AUGUSTA — Bubba Watson started the day by watching the rarest shot in golf. He ended another thrill-a-minute Sunday at Augusta National with a signature shot of his own to win the Masters.
So deep in the trees right of the 10th fairway that he couldn’t even see the green, Watson hooked a wedge off the pine needles from 155 yards to about 10 feet from the hole. That set up a par, good enough to beat Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole.
“If I’ve got a swing, I’ve got a shot,” Watson said.
It was Oosthuizen who set the tone for this wild day with a double eagle — only the fourth in Masters history — on the par-5 second hole when his 4-iron from 253 yards landed on the front of the green and rolled some 90 feet into the hole for a 2.
“Somehow it fell in my hands today,” said Watson, who closed with a 68. “It’s amazing. It’s a blur, the last nine holes I don’t remember anything. Somehow I guess I cried all my tears out.”
He was blubbering hard on the 10th green, shoulders heaving, for so many reasons. Just two weeks ago, he and his wife adopted a baby boy, Caleb. The first person on the green was his mother — his father died right after the Ryder Cup in 2010. And suddenly, the powerful lefty with a million shots in the bag was a major champion.
“I never got this far in my dreams,” Watson said in Butler cabin, where defending champion Charl Schwartzel helped him into the green jacket. “It’s a blessing. To go home to my new son, it’s going to be fun.”
Oosthuizen was trying to join Gene Sarazen in the 1935 Masters as the only major champions to win with a double eagle in the final round. The former British Open champion made one clutch putt after another on the back nine, none more important than a 4-footer on the 18th for a 69 to force the playoff.
Both had a good look at birdie at No. 18 on the first extra hole and missed.
Watson, dressed all in white and using a pink driver, hooked one into the trees and it appeared he would have no shot at reaching the green. Oosthuizen followed him, clanged off a Georgia pine and was left with 231 yards to the green. His approach came up short.
That’s when Watson, who rarely hits a shot on a straight line, came up with the most magical shot of his life.
“I was there earlier today, during regulation,” he said.
“So I was used to it. I knew what I was facing there. I had a good lie, had a gap where I had to hook it 40 yards or something. I’m pretty good at hooking it.”
Oosthuizen was in the fairway. All he could see was a corridor of fans leading into the woods.
“I had no idea where he was,” Oosthuizen said. “Where I stood from, when the ball came out, it looked like a curve ball. Unbelievable shot. That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament.”
They finished at 10-under 278, two shots ahead of four players who kept it close and made the Masters as compelling as ever.
Phil Mickelson, playing in the final group for the fourth time, recovered from a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth hole and still managed to stay in the game. He could only make two-putt birdies on the two par 5s on the back and shot 72.
“It’s disappointing that I didn’t grab that fourth green jacket,” said Mickelson, whose wife and three kids flew in from San Diego on Sunday. “It’s disappointing that I didn’t make it happen on the back nine and get the putts to fall, even though I felt like I was hitting them pretty good. I gave them all good chances. I just couldn’t quite get them to go.”
Lee Westwood ran off three straight birdies, but the last one hurt. He had an 8-foot eagle putt to tie for the lead on the 15th and missed it, and a final birdie on the 18th gave him a 68 and only made it look close.
“I don’t feel like giving up just yet,” said Westwood, who had his seventh top-3 finish in a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Matt Kuchar tied for the lead with a short eagle putt on the 15th, then bogeyed the 16th for a 69. Peter Hanson, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, didn’t make a birdie until the 15th hole. He closed with a 73.
Gerry “Bubba” Watson, a 33-year-old from the Florida Panhandle, won for the fourth time in his career and moves to No. 4 in the world, making him the highest-ranked American in golf.
And he created a legion of fans — especially in Georgia, where he returned to school to get his degree – who chanted, “Bubba! Bubba! Bubba!” as he hugged everyone he could find on the 10th green.
Tiger Woods used to play practice rounds with Watson at the majors because he was intrigued how a guy who has never had a coach could make the ball move any direction he wanted.
Woods was among those who congratulated Watson on Twitter before the trophy presentation.
“Congrats (at)bubba watson. Fantastic creativity. Now how creative will the champions dinner be next year?” he tweeted.
Oosthuizen was trying to become only the sixth player to have won majors at Augusta National and St. Andrews — two of the most revered coursesin golf — and almost got it done.
He stayed in the lead with a tricky par putt from 10 feet on the 14th and a 7-foot birdie putt on the 15th, but Watson caught him by making his fourth straight birdie on the back nine, a tee shot into 4 feet on the 16th.
Both hung on for pars the rest of the way.
Woods went from the favorite to not even a factor on the weekend. He closed with a birdie on the 18th for a 74 and had his highest score ever at the Masters as a pro, finishing at 5-over 293 – 15 shots out of the lead.
This, from a guy who only two weeks ago won by five shots at Bay Hill, presumably signaling a return.
“It was an off week at the wrong time,” Woods said.
He tied for 40th with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, also favored to contend. McIlroy was one shot out of the lead after two rounds, then had a 77-76 weekend.
Woods and McIlroy were expected to be a big part of the show. This being Augusta, the show managed to go on. There simply is no greater theater in golf than the Masters, and it lasted all day.
An ace for Bo Van Pelt on the 16th – the second straight year he has made two eagles on the back nine – for a tournament-best 64. An ace for Adam Scott on the same hole, sending him to a 66.
The loudest cheer was for the rarest shot in golf.
Hanson was sizing up a difficult chip from right of the first green when Augusta erupted in cheers from down below. No one was sure what it meant until Hanson and Mickelson hit their tee shots on the par-5 second, glanced over at the white leaderboard behind the eighth green and saw that Oosthuizen had gone from 7 under to 10 under ahead of them.
Hanson made two quick bogeys and never caught back up. Mickelson’s tournament might have ended on the fourth hole with one swing, one bad bounce off the bleachers, and two straight right-handed shots that led to triple bogey.
“Oh, no,” Mickelson said as his tee shot struck the grandstand and caromed into the woods. He could have gone back to the tee and played his third shot. Instead, he tried to chop out of the trees from the right side and barely moved it a yard. He tried the same shot again and slapped it to a muddy patch of grass. From there he went into the bunker, and triple bogey was the best he could do.
Kuchar made a late run, but this back nine – plus two extra holes – ultimately belonged to Watson and Oosthuizen.